What is Compliance in the Cloud? Challenges and Implementation of a Compliance Program
Compliance programs are created to discuss the threats and risks that involve a community or industry. First, an industry consortium or the government sets some rules and regulations to protect the industry’s objective or community. It is done by the mandatory regulatory requirements so that anyone providing services meets the requirement for that industry or community. Later on, the authority will set up regular audits to access to check whether the service provider is following all the protocols. They are also known as compliance audits.
Cloud compliance is a collection of regulations and principles that are to be followed by the organizations that are using cloud services. Cloud services are now in high demand, so cloud customers must understand the compliance and meet up to the guidelines.
Importance of Compliance
Compliance program demand is increasing and expanding within the industries. It has affected its perception among people regarding its value. For organizations that are looking out for cloud-based services for which the vendor has to connect with the following:
- PCI (Payment Card Industry standard)
- HIPAA (Data protection standard set by the US Government healthcare)
- SOC2 (AICPA has established a general technology auditing standard)
The vendors that meet the standards of this compliance mentioned above are considered better even though the organization cannot detect any threat or risk to their sensitive data. It is the general idea among organizations that verified protection is better than no protection. Moreover, cyber threats often involve third-party suppliers and vendors, so going for a certified compliant service provider relaxes them.
Is Compliance Directly Proportional to Security?
Compliance programs set a standard for protection and build an idea that it is equivalent to complete security. It is a total misconception as no one can guarantee 100% security. Therefore, compliance should not be seen as equal to a secure network. They necessarily set a baseline for controls that are common risk factors. For example, they will urge you to create a strong password to protect your system better, but this cannot altogether stop any hacker from attacking. They can find means and ways to hack your system by avoiding the password entirely. Phishing attacks generally steal the credentials from an active user session. It allows them to bypass password controls altogether.
The cloud-based data breaches and other reported risks have compelled the vendors to update their security practice. It is also done to have better control and automation towards the compliance programs. Even though one cannot completely prevent attacks, but they can prepare themselves for future threats. Therefore, it is necessary that the compliance standards are met and constantly monitored.
Steps to Implement Compliance Program in Cloud
Here are the steps that are followed in implementing compliance programs in the cloud.
- Acquiring Assets Visibility: You must have a well-maintained system and properly arranged resources. Many organizations find the task of monitoring assets and tracking them to be a complete hassle and more taxing as it requires proper arrangement. The automation of cloud operations is necessary as it enables visibility & configuration of assets and the inventory.
- Selection of Right Compliance Framework: The selection of a compliance program should be industry-specific and market requirement. As for the business for which the regulation standards are not required, the customer base can guide their decision as the customers may be looking out for vendors that meet the relevant industry standards. In such situations, the selection of common business standards can be beneficial, like the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST).
- Evaluation of Compliance Programs: It is good to examine your compliance program to meet the compliance framework before implementing it. For example, check whether the PCI framework displays the requirement for a particular cardholder in the data system components rather than the entire network while receiving the bulk protection. As a result, it will segment and only provide a firewall to a portion of the system and isolate compliance controls to only those specific systems, given the scope of data. Therefore, customization of a plan will help meet the compliance requirements, resulting in better efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
- Monitoring, Checking the Frequency of Continuous Assessments, and Integration with Workflow Tools: Most compliance programs follow the model that states that controls should be operational 24X7, so they must be monitored regularly. So many organizations, to work seamlessly, use tools to automate workflows that include ticketing and notifications to ensure the efficiency of their controls. With the usage of these tools, organizations get a streamlined view that heightens visibility and control.
- Automated Remediation: The traditional counterparts of compliance programs are much more straightforward than those used by the systems operating in the cloud. Organizations can automate remediations in several areas like security tasks that include removing or adding a user in a system or network or for more complex workflows like a combination of order processing with multiple strategies to increase accuracy, privacy, or confidentiality. Complex controls are carried by automation as they boost the value and efficiency of threat scans & analysis, high-volume logs, and more rather than manually. However, it is recommended that one maintain caution while automation by monitoring the actions, especially in cases where there is a strong possibility of false positives.
- Auditing and Reposting: For the cases where the cloud implementation supports the compliance programs, performance must include reporting on the compliant controls. In some cases, it is outsourced to the CSPs (Cloud Service Providers). There are some cases where you will need to provide your CSPs regular reports regarding how the compliance controls meet your requirements.
There are also scenarios where your customers can also require this information. However, in most cases, customers acknowledge the use of the specific CSP, and now, it will be your responsibility to control the third-party controls and review them regularly. It is also because vendors do not have enough operational capacity to permit their customers to audit them. So, you must evaluate any risks associated with cloud vendors and maintain a follow-up concern with the compliance reports.
Lastly, the ability to share the reports with the customers from the CSPs is limited to protect private information. Therefore, it would be best to verify with your legal team or compliance team to ensure that you don’t raise a claim to the CSP vendor compliance certification information as your own until your CSP vendor permits.
How the Changes in Cloud Affects the Changes to Compliance?
Compliance programs have been impacted as the cloud industry overgrows. Earlier, the primary purpose of the cloud was to compute resources to the users across the internet. While, it is not the case in the present scenario where various big industries like Google (GCP), Microsoft (Azure), and Amazon (AWS) provide much more. Each of these CSPs offers many unique features to personalized for business along with good security. In addition, automated applications and expert systems are vital components of security, governance, and compliance in the cloud.
With new challenges in the industries, compliance programs need some updates to adapt to the new reality of complexity related to the cloud. Security assurance programs like CIS Benchmark, SOC2, NIST, PCI DSS, and ISO27001 will also get enhanced security frameworks to integrate well with the cloud.
Moreover, the latest privacy-oriented compliance regulations like
- CCPA (California Consumer Protection Act) is a US standard privacy standard effective in January 2020.
- GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a current EU standard for privacy protection.
They are already making a significant impact in defining new business processes that necessitate new cloud implementation strategies. As a result, there is a rise in businesses seeking out cloud providers and service vendors that will offer them solutions that meet all these compliance requirements.
We also provide Audit and Compliance services. Our experts assist organizations in adhering to the regulatory mandates to increase their business value by meeting the standard compliance requirements.
Varutra Consulting Pvt. Ltd.